During 2020, collectively we’ve rightly praised the NHS, teachers, delivery drivers, supermarket staff, scientists and other professions that have gone above and beyond to help us through this difficult time.
One set of people that I would like to single out for praise are those who help upkeep our parks, commons, green spaces and areas of natural beauty. Personally, I have never appreciated parks more. I can’t imagine what life would be like without them right now and during the first wave of the pandemic.
I’ve always appreciated the role they play in our wellbeing – and there’s plenty of research and evidence on this subject – but in 2020 parks have emerged as the new gyms and exercise hangouts, socialising hubs, meditation and mindfulness zones, business meeting venues, walk and talk centres, and al fresco dining settings (remember the summer picnic frenzy?).
While they’ve played these roles before, and will continue to when the pandemic is over, these activities have grown exponentially over the past eight or so months when other options and venues have been limited. Covid-19 has had an adverse effect on many people’s mental health, but it would be undoubtedly far worse without parks and all they have to offer.
So here’s to those that maintain them – from council employees to volunteers. To those that mow the lawns, make the flowers attractive, open and lock the gates, pick up litter, and keep the playgrounds safe – we salute you!
My park preference
I am blessed to live near some fantastic parks. I’m close to Richmond Park, and Bushy Park is less than 2 miles away. But the park I want to give a special shout out to is Canbury Gardens, in Kingston Upon Thames. Located alongside the river, it boasts a playground, tennis courts, plentiful green space, a community pavilion and garden, a cafe (a regenerated derelict toilet block converted it into a seasonal café serving ‘high quality refreshments and fine foods’), and my favourite part: an outdoor fitness zone.
As well as recently installed fitness equipment, this part of the park contains a good-sized astroturf, all-weather pitch which has hosted football, cricket, hockey, basketball matches and training throughout the year. These aren’t organised sessions, but for anyone to turn up and use, delighting young, old, beginner and competent sportsperson alike.
I’ve loved spending time there playing sports with my young sons and then grabbing a coffee and looking out onto the river. It’s definitely had a positive impact on my wellbeing during this time.
So, I’ve shared mine. What’s your favourite park or outdoor space? Feel free to tell us in the comments section on LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram, and, if you wish to, let us know how it’s boosted your wellbeing during this time.
Parks and wellbeing
For more information on the relationship between parks and wellbeing, and in turn improved mental health, take a look at this piece from Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind. You can also read about the role of public parks for wellbeing via this informative piece from What Works Wellbeing.